As Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial Begins, Epstein’s Shadow Looms Large

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Ms. Maxwell’s enactment trafficking proceedings successful Manhattan, which starts connected Monday, is wide seen arsenic a proxy for the courtroom reckoning that her longtime spouse ne'er received.

Ghislaine Maxwell, agelong  a fixture connected  New York City’s societal  scene, is accused of procuring and grooming girls arsenic  young arsenic  14 for the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Credit...Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Benjamin WeiserRebecca Davis O’Brien

Nov. 29, 2021Updated 12:30 p.m. ET

On the archetypal level of the national courthouse successful Manhattan hangs an antithetic creation exhibit: framed courtroom illustrations of terrorists, mobsters and corrupt politicians with names similar Yousef, Gotti and Silver who had each appeared earlier judges there.

For a while, 1 of the astir notorious faces connected display, successful a corridor adjacent a country wherever prospective jurors gather, was that of Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and enactment offender.

But astatine a caller proceeding successful the lawsuit of Ghislaine Maxwell, whose proceedings connected charges she helped Mr. Epstein recruit and yet maltreatment young girls begins connected Monday, the authorities and the defence each asked that Mr. Epstein’s representation beryllium removed from the wall.

Judge Alison J. Nathan agreed to person it done. But Mr. Epstein, who died by suicide much than 2 years ago, volition not beryllium truthful easy erased from the proceedings of Ms. Maxwell, his longtime partner.

“The shadiness of Epstein is going to loom ample here,” said Moira Penza, a erstwhile national authoritative successful Brooklyn. “The lawsuit is evidently going to beryllium astir Maxwell, but he’s going to beryllium close astatine the halfway of it arsenic well.”

Ms. Maxwell, 59, the girl of a British media mogul and a longtime fixture connected New York’s societal scene, had been linked to Mr. Epstein arsenic a woman and aboriginal helped him negociate his homes and his societal relationships.

Her lawyers present look the situation of trying to disentangle her from the allegations against Mr. Epstein — adjacent possibly portraying her arsenic his victim, ineligible experts said. But the authorities volition besides person to tread cautiously earlier the jury.

“The prosecutors are surely going to privation to overgarment a representation of Epstein arsenic an evil man, due to the fact that that’s indispensable for the jurors to recognize and beryllium outraged by her relation successful the scheme,” said Arlo Devlin-Brown, a erstwhile apical national corruption authoritative successful Manhattan.

“But they truly person to locomotion a good line,” helium added, “between mounting that signifier and going overboard — making the proceedings excessively overmuch astir Epstein and his conduct, and not capable astir Maxwell.”

Mr. Epstein, 66, was arrested connected July 6, 2019, and charged with recruiting dozens of girls to prosecute successful enactment acts with him astatine his mansion successful Manhattan and his property successful Palm Beach, Fla. He paid them hundreds of dollars successful currency for each encounter, a national indictment said.

Just implicit a period later, Mr. Epstein hanged himself successful his jailhouse compartment portion awaiting trial, the aesculapian examiner ruled.

In announcing charges against Ms. Maxwell successful July 2020, prosecutors said she had been a captious facilitator of Mr. Epstein’s conduct.

“Maxwell enticed insignificant girls, got them to spot her and past delivered them into the trap that she and Jeffrey Epstein had set,” Audrey Strauss, past the acting Manhattan U.S. attorney, said astatine the time.

Ms. Maxwell’s lawyer did not respond to a petition for remark connected her client’s behalf, but successful a caller hearing, Ms. Maxwell told Judge Nathan, “I person not committed immoderate crime.”

A national indictment charged Ms. Maxwell had groomed girls to little their defenses, befriending them by asking astir their lives, their schools and families and taking them to the movies and shopping. The word “grooming” describes a strategy that predators usage to effort to interruption down a imaginable victim’s absorption to abusive conduct.

Having developed a rapport with a victim, Ms. Maxwell would effort to normalize intersexual maltreatment by discussing intersexual topics, undressing successful beforehand of a unfortunate oregon being contiguous for enactment acts involving the miss and Mr. Epstein, the indictment said.

It said that her beingness “helped enactment the victims astatine easiness due to the fact that an big pistillate was present.”

Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers person not publically discussed their proceedings strategy, but soon aft her arrest, erstwhile she was unsuccessfully seeking bail, they wrote to Judge Nathan: “Sometimes, the simplest constituent is the astir captious one: Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein.”

Rachel E. Barkow, a prof of transgression instrumentality astatine New York University School of Law, said it volition beryllium a situation for Ms. Maxwell “to effort to someway abstracted herself from him, and marque the lawsuit that she’s a antithetic idiosyncratic and conscionable due to the fact that she has a narration with him does not mean guilt by association.”

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Credit...Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Ms. Penza, who led the prosecuting squad that won the 2019 racketeering condemnation of Keith Raniere, the Nxivm enactment cult leader, said Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers mightiness effort to suggest that she was a unfortunate of Mr. Epstein, blaming him without fearfulness that helium could rebut the assertion — a benignant of “empty chair” defense.

“You couldn’t person a bigger bare seat than successful this case,” Ms. Penza said. “Everyone successful the country is going to beryllium navigating the information that Epstein is not connected proceedings and Maxwell is.”

Mr. Devlin-Brown added that “the defence volition request to beryllium deft successful their portrayal of Epstein.” If her lawyers privation to represent Ms. Maxwell arsenic a dupe, helium said, they whitethorn absorption connected Mr. Epstein’s “manipulative traits, his quality to charm and fool high-profile individuals from the worlds of politics, academia and commerce.”

Prosecutors person already pushed backmost connected a imaginable Maxwell-as-victim defense, calling specified an statement “baseless” and asking that her lawyers beryllium precluded from making it without archetypal showing the justice however they would beryllium it.

“The government’s yearslong probe has not developed immoderate grounds that the suspect was victimized successful immoderate mode by Jeffrey Epstein,” the authorities precocious wrote successful little-noticed tribunal papers.

The prosecutors said that adjacent earlier they presented Ms. Maxwell’s lawsuit earlier the expansive jury, they listened arsenic her defence lawyers made assorted arguments trying to dissuade them from charging her.

Understand the Ghislaine Maxwell Trial


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An Epstein confidant. Ghislaine Maxwell, the girl of a British media mogul and erstwhile a fixture successful New York’s societal scene, was a longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself aft his apprehension connected enactment trafficking charges successful 2019.

“At nary clip has the defence represented to the authorities that Epstein victimized the suspect successful immoderate manner,” the prosecutors wrote.

And erstwhile prosecutors much precocious asked Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers whether they planned to connection specified grounds astatine trial, “defense counsel declined to answer,” the authorities said.

In a tart effect to the government’s assertions, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers suggested that determination was so grounds for specified an argument.

“The authorities should reread the galore thousands of pages of witnesser statements,” the defence wrote, “before asserting that it would beryllium ‘baseless’ to assertion that Ms. Maxwell was a unfortunate of Epstein.”

“The authorities would similar thing amended than for the tribunal to necessitate defence counsel to person their hands tied down their backmost and their mouths duct-taped,” the defence added.

Whatever the defense’s strategy, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers besides volition beryllium warring a cognition that she is Mr. Epstein’s proxy — that her proceedings volition beryllium the 1 helium ne'er had.

Mr. Epstein archetypal avoided national sex-trafficking charges successful 2007 erstwhile helium negotiated a concealed deal with the U.S. attorney’s bureau successful Miami to plead blameworthy to lesser authorities charges of soliciting a insignificant for prostitution. He avoided different proceedings erstwhile helium died by termination successful 2019.

“The information I volition ne'er person a accidental to look my predator successful tribunal eats distant astatine my soul,” 1 of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Jennifer Araoz, said successful a tribunal proceeding soon aft Mr. Epstein's death. She had accused Mr. Epstein of raping her erstwhile she was a 15-year-old performing arts precocious schoolhouse pupil successful New York.

The justice successful Mr. Epstein’s case, Richard M. Berman, had called the proceeding aft prosecutors asked him to disregard Mr. Epstein’s indictment due to the fact that of his death. Judge Berman did so, but lone aft giving nearly 2 twelve of Mr. Epstein’s accusers a accidental to beryllium heard successful court.

“Please, delight decorativeness what you person started,” different of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Sarah Ransome, said astatine the hearing, thanking prosecutors for “pursuing justness connected behalf of the victims.”

As for the representation of Mr. Epstein, who was sketched seated betwixt his lawyers astatine a 2019 bail hearing, it was taken down arsenic the parties requested.

“My consciousness is some sides privation to guarantee there’s going to beryllium a just trial,” said Deirdre von Dornum, the caput of the national defenders bureau successful Brooklyn.

She said prosecutors would not privation the defence to aboriginal beryllium capable to question a mistrial connected grounds a juror was influenced by the Epstein sketch. And Ms. Maxwell’s attorneys would not privation a juror thinking, “He’s truthful notorious that he’s hanging connected the wall.”

“It’ll punctual the jurors,” she said, “that his proceedings ne'er happened and that helium was ne'er brought to justice, truthful idiosyncratic inactive needs to be.”

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